11/04/2018: Psalm 27, 1 Corinthians 1:1-10, “All Saints” by Rev. Grace Howard

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Date: Dec 04 2018
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One of many things that I can’t understand about American culture is Halloween. It is the second most popular holiday.  People spend money, about $9 billion, on Halloween.  I have thought that Halloween is not a good thing to do.  Since I came to America, I have ignored it. But this week, I learned about the connection between Halloween and All Saints Day.   So, let’s forget about the witches and goblin of Halloween and think about saints.  Before we see what scriptures say about saints, let us pray. (pray)

Halloween originated with an ancient Celtic festival.  People believed that during the night of November 1, demons, witches, and evil spirits freely roamed the earth.  They celebrated the long nights and early dark of the winter months. The demons had their fun with poor mortals that night, by playing all kinds of mean tricks on them. The only way to escape the persecution of the demons was to offer them things they liked, especially fancy foods and sweets. Or a human could disguise himself as one of them and join in their roaming. In this way, they would recognize the human as a demon or witch and the human would not be bothered that night.  This is where we got the idea of trick or treat and wearing costumes.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of the Celtic festival.  Since Catholics define “saints” as all those who have attained heaven, their All Saints’ Day observances tend to focus on the few exemplary persons who have been canonized as “saints”.  The Catholic conception of “saints” usually means that they are persons of exceptional piety, faith and service.

Reformed Protestants usually prefer to celebrate the Reformation around this time. Because it was on October 31 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, against the sale of indulgences, to the door of All Saints church in Wittenburg. This action began the Protestant Reformation.  Looking to the scriptures, we Protestants have come to a different conception of what the word “saints” means.  Let’s see what our scriptures have to say about “saints”.

In 1 Corinthians 1:2, the apostle Paul addresses his letter: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…”

Paul is implying that everyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ is called to be a saint. A saint is sanctified in Christ.  But what does it mean to be a “saint”?

According to the Greek dictionary, the words “saints” and “sanctified” have two basic meanings:  The first meaning is to be set apart for God’s use.  The second meaning is to be ceremonially pure and righteous.  When Paul says the Corinthian Christians have been “sanctified” in Christ, he means that they have been set apart from the world for God’s special use.  They haven’t been made pure and righteous yet, because Paul spends much of this letter correcting their thinking behavior.  Yet when Paul says they are called to be saints, I believe that he does mean that they are called to become pure and righteous in Christ.

We cannot think of ourselves as “saints” without giving thanks to God for his grace.   Here is what Paul had to say.  “4I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—

The rest of our passage from 1 Corinthians 1 tells how we have been blessed and equipped by God to enable us to fulfill our saintly purpose.  Thus, in verse 4, Paul gives thanks for the grace of God that has been given believers in Christ Jesus. Indeed, it is only by grace—God’s unmerited favor—drawing us to himself that we become saints.

Not only has he made us saints in Christ but according to 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 he has also enriched us in every way with knowledge and wisdom through the gospel of Christ. “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus.”

So as “saints”—called to be holy and set apart for God’s service in Christ—we have access to all of God’s grace, knowledge, spiritual gifts and equipping that we need to be faithful.  And all of this help is made available within the community of the church, the body of Christ.  For it says in Verse 9 “you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

And so we are urged in 1 Corinthians 1:10 to take advantage of the support of the Christian community and “be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” This is a call for us to live out the unity that is already ours through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

My husband, Jeff, often says that Delaware City Presbyterian church is a wonderful church that does all kind things: Mardi Gras Fundraiser, Family Fun Night, Corn boils, Fall Fest, Break Bread, and other outreach programs. And we will invite the community to our Community Thanksgiving dinner. These efforts break down walls between our church and the community through community events.  So as saints, believers in Christ, let’s continue to reach out to our community.

Recently, I heard that a handicap ramp is in our church wish list. During last Sunday’s worship, Michael came to worship with us, but he couldn’t come into Sanctuary. He was physically challenged and was in a mobile wheelchair. He wants to come to worship God with us. On last Thursday and yesterday, he called me and said that “ he has called two companies to install a handicap ramp for our church”. He wants to pay a half the cost of installing a handicap ramp. He really wants to belong to our church, the community of saints in Jesus Christ.

In Darkness Is My Only Companion, Kathryn Greene-McCreight describes her tortured journey through ten years of extreme depression and bipolar disorder and the importance of Christian fellowship to her recovery.  She said, “it is so important to worship in the community—to ask your brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for you … Sometimes you literally cannot make it on your own, and you need to borrow from the faith of those around you. Sometimes I cannot even recite the Creed unless I am doing it in the context of worship, along with all the body of Christ…Companionship in the Lord Jesus is powerful.”

There are many suffering people like Kathryn and  Michael.  They have emotional and physical problems.  Also, there are many people who are economically challenged. All these people need Jesus Christ.   It is challenging to love and share life with challenged people. However, if we are set apart for God’s purpose, and becoming pure and righteous by God as saints then we should be able to love them.

I believe that one of the biggest challenges that this church faced was to accept me as your pastor.   The saints of this church called a Korean woman pastor with a heavy accent. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you adopted me.    With your open hearts and patience, the saints of this church have blessed me. As saints of the church let’s do continually what we can to welcome not only disabled people but also all kind of people into our church by making necessary changes in the building and programs.

As saints, we should also consider impoverished people around the world.  Next Sunday a bi-vocational missionary, Randy Odom, will be in our pulpit.   Randy is the president of Pioneer Vision for Christ and an advisor and facilitator for All Nations for Christ at Salisbury University. He was my ministry partner for Crossroads International Fellowship in Princess Anne and All Nations for Christ in Salisbury University. He is a really humble and faithful person. He is a great connector between missionaries in South America and Africa and American Churches to build up Christ’s church.  I urge that you come back next Sunday for worship and meet him and hear about his work in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.  This will help us to connect with saints around the world.

Your love for this church, for the community, and for me indicates that you are saints. Also, I see that you are gifted people who love each other.  I urge you to extend your love toward this community and world mission. That is God’s purpose to make you saints.  God will bless this church and your life.  I pray that God gives you all wisdom and gracious hearts to bring everyone to this church.  Let us pray………….  Amen.

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